By Kristin Chenoweth It’s hardly a secret that I was adopted as a baby and quite frankly, there’s absolutely no reason it should be. As I’ve grown, I’ve watched the conversation and perceptions about adopted kids and families shift, but nothing has quite captured the truth, both the good and the ugly, of adoption like the film “LION.” It’s an honest look at adoption and the not uncommon feelings surrounding identity that come up for many people. Without getting on a soapbox, the film stands up to some commonly held misperceptions about adoption, the stigma many families deal with and supports the often life changing impact it can have. When it comes down to it, “LION” is a story of love and family, and the idea that we are shaped by both our environment and our DNA.
If you’re not already familiar, “LION” is the true story of Saroo Brierley, who at 5 years old gets lost on a train, ending up on the streets of Calcutta before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Fast forward 25 years later, Saroo uses Google Earth, when it was still a new technology to try to find his birth home.
The story alone is incredible, but the cast is simply remarkable in their portrayals — and if you’re anything like me, they’ll have you sobbing through an entire box of tissues. This film is an emotional journey boosted by the gorgeous landscapes of India and Australia, and no surprise that I noticed the music, which ties together the longing, heart wrenching, and joyous moments throughout.
When it comes down to it, ‘LION’ is a story of love and family, and the idea that we are shaped by both our environment and our DNA.
Dev Patel plays Saroo as an adult struggling with his identity, something I’ve found to be an experience every adopted kid feels at one point in their lives or another. The results of his search are beyond belief, but it’s his journey that resonated most strongly with my own experience. On the one hand, you share the unconditional love for your parents that they have for you, not to mention eternal gratitude for the life they’ve given you. But as Saroo shows, there’s often a lingering thought about where you came from. We all yearn for our truth; who we are, where we come from, maybe where we get certain quirks or talents (for me I long wondered where my voice came from since my mother very well knows it was not from her). But finding those truths is the most personal of journeys, coming to each of us at different times and in different ways. On top of that, there’s always a part of you that worries this is somehow a betrayal as if your parents and your life are not enough.
“LION” expertly navigates those thoughts. The movie gives you so much time in India, giving you a complete sense of Saroo’s life and family there. As an adult he holds on to those memories, but also can’t bring himself to open up to that part of his identity until it nearly paralyzes and destroys his life.
I can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was never something that was hidden from me and it is not something I have ever been ashamed of.
Nicole Kidman who plays Saroo’s adoptive mother, Sue, made my heart break. Nicole herself is part of the community of adoptive mothers and it so clearly impacts her performance in this film. She simply nails it. She is the image of an understanding parent, whose love has no limits. In one scene, she explains to Saroo that the children she and her husband brought into their lives enriched it beyond words; that they chose him. In a way, she gives Saroo permission to search, taking away the guilt because at the end of the day, she will always be his mother.
I can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was never something that was hidden from me and it is not something I have ever been ashamed of. I recognize how fortunate I am to have parents who love and support me unconditionally. The fact that they are not my biological parents does not change the fact that they are simply, my parents.
Not everyone can say that, but I count myself lucky to have a birth mother who loved me enough to know she wasn’t ready to be a mom. I’m lucky that I have wonderful parents who chose me. I often say adoption is a full-circle blessing and I truly believe it. Adopted children were not abandoned, we were chosen. That is one of the core messages of “LION,” serving as a beautiful reminder that love knows no boundaries.
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